Supporting oral health—early childhood educators

  • oral health ECEC

    At the start and end of each day, children from your service are brushing their teeth and gums—supervised and assisted—for a healthy, sparkly smile. Maintaining dental health goes beyond twice daily toothbrushing though and early childhood educators have an important part to play. You can help children and families at your service to make good oral health part of their routines by supporting them to learn more about the important role of dental health. 

    Healthy foods for healthy teeth

    A healthy diet plays a big part in maintaining healthy teeth and gums. In your setting you can work with cooks, staff and parents to promote healthy eating and offer a variety of nutritious foods in your menu such as:
    • vegetables
    • fruits
    • cereals
    • lean meat
    • fish
    • chicken
    • legumes
    • milks
    • yoghurts
    • cheeses.

    Also in this edition of Grow & Thrive:

    Oral health—something to smile about

    Supporting oral health—early primary teachers

    Looking after teeth and gums—parents

    Sign up to the Grow & Thrive newsletter                                   
    To help prevent tooth decay, it’s important to minimise availability of ‘sometimes’ foods that are high in sugar like:
    • chocolate
    • lollies
    • sweetened breakfast cereals
    • biscuits
    • fruit bars
    • dried fruit 
    • muesli bars. 
    Kids (and adults too) should also minimise their intake of foods that are high in simple carbohydrates such as savoury, starchy crackers and chips. These foods are quickly converted to sugar in our bodies.

    Sugary foods and drinks, and foods that are high in simple carbohydrates (like chips and sweet biscuits) are often associated with reward and celebrations like birthdays. Think about other ways to host a celebration at your service that still feel special and exciting, but don’t rely on this sort of ‘sometimes’ food.
    Tip: Help prevent tooth decay by encouraging children to brush their teeth or rinse their mouth with water after meals.

    Did you know?

    Children in the poorest areas experience one and a half times the rate of tooth decay and cavities, compared to children in the wealthiest areas. Look out for children in your setting who may need extra support in keeping decay and cavities away.

    Choosing the best drinks

    The drinks we choose also have a big influence on oral health—a general rule of thumb is to avoid sugary, acidic drinks including:
    • soft drink
    • juice
    • cordial
    • flavoured milk
    • sports drinks
    • flavoured water.

    Tip: Check that your setting’s nutrition policy includes dental health guidelines. 
    While many of these sugary drinks are marketed towards children, water is actually the best drink that you can give a child. In areas with fluoride in the water, tap water is of particular benefit and much less expensive than bottled water.

    For babies, encourage parents to only use feeding bottles and sippy cups for milk and water—not sweet drinks, and discourage parents from settling children with a bottle.

    Parent fact sheets

    If you’re concerned about the oral health habits of a child in your setting, you might like to share our Grow & Thrive parent fact sheets with their parents or caregivers. These are packed with information on why oral health is so important, and tips on how to look after those little teeth and gums.

    Where to find help

    There are more resources available that you can share with families to encourage good oral health. The Raising Children Network provides in-depth oral health resources tailored for newborns, babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

    Raising Children Network
    When more help is needed, parents and their children can also speak with a range of health professionals including dental professionals, family doctors, maternal and child health nurses, and paediatricians.

    Also in this edition of Grow & Thrive:

    Oral health—something to smile about

    Supporting oral health—early primary teachers

    Looking after teeth and gums—parents

    Sign up to the Grow & Thrive newsletter